Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Badnik Mechanic

The Alton Towers Roller Coaster Crash

Recommended Posts

This was quite surreal, having only been there myself a week before.

 

My brother works at a hospital, & he encountered some of the people injured there & described how bad the injuries were. It's quite sad to hear about, I can't imagine how it's like for him.

 

I mean... this is some pretty crappy stuff. I hope they learn from this. Wow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the most annoying things about this to me is how Alton Towers are acting like there has never been an accident there before. Are we just forgetting the Runaway Mine Train crash? It was quite similar as to what happened except it also got someone decapitated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This was quite surreal, having only been there myself a week before.

 

My brother works at a hospital, & he encountered some of the people injured there & described how bad the injuries were. It's quite sad to hear about, I can't imagine how it's like for him.

 

I mean... this is some pretty crappy stuff. I hope they learn from this. Wow.

He must be at the Royal Stoke. Wonder if I ever pass him when going by bus.

Speaking of the bus, seeing some of the staff that wait at Hanley station to get on the bus to Alton Towers, hearing that there was a breach of health and safety on their part doesn't surprise me, unfortunately. Horrific for everyone caught in the crash, I can only hope their lives can get back to some form of normality sooner rather than later (I say some form because one of them got life-changing injuries, which is downright nightmarish).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Heard about this a few days ago. Shocking really. I hope the people who were involved in the crash are doing fine, even those with life changing injuries (apparently one of them lost both legs .__.). Looks like I won't step a foot in the Smiler if I ever visit Alton Towers. After all, this isn't the first time it's had problems...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the most annoying things about this to me is how Alton Towers are acting like there has never been an accident there before. Are we just forgetting the Runaway Mine Train crash? It was quite similar as to what happened except it also got someone decapitated.

 

That never happened at Alton Towers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’d actually made a point of this in the Theme park topic.

 

Firstly, it's horrible that such a thing has happened, and all my thoughts are with those who were not only on the train when the accident occurred, but also with the ride's operation team who undoubtedly would have been awfully shaken and any guests who had to bear witness to the crash itself. I can't begin to think what any of those individuals had to go through, and I hope that nobody who visits a theme park ever has to.

 

Now...

 

I'm sorry to say this Hog, but you're very misinformed in some areas about this incident, and some statements made frankly just annoy me. Alton Towers’ quite simply has had one of the most untarnished safety records in attractions history, and whilst there's no doubt that this is a horrific accident, this is hardly a thing that happens remotely often, if even ever. Yes, I do remember the Runaway Mine Train accident back in 2007, but it's nothing compared to what happened here. Nothing at all.

 

As for the apparent late response time to alert emergency services, the park already has an established first response team, who were on the scene in minutes, and are normally well equipped to deal with most situations, but then realised the situation required additional help once they were all on scene.

 

Let me begin by saying, I like to think I know a thing or two about this ride and park operations in general. Roller coasters are my second biggest passion after Sonic the Hedgehog, and it's my absolute favourite in the country. So I'll do my best to explain in coaster terms what has happened, and ultimately what I think it means for the ride and the park.

 

What was the sequence of events leading up to the crash?

 

The exact sequence of events is still under investigation, but eyewitness accounts paint the following picture:

 

Following some downtime earlier in the day, ride operators send several empty ride trains around the circuit to ensure that all systems are functioning properly. After sending a few around, the final test train fails to complete one of the loops on the first half of the circuit (possibly due to high winds), and as a result it rests in the ‘valley’ between two loops. There it stays, and people report the train.

 

By the time the news has reached the dispatch cabin, passengers have already embarked on their ride. Right now, nothing so far has gone amiss.

 

The train full of passengers ascends the lift, and the ride’s ‘Blocking’ system rightly stops it from dropping off the lift hill as the previous train has yet to clear the track ahead. This train waits here for 15 minutes.

 

This is where things go disastrously wrong. At this point, for whatever reason, the ride’s blocking system fails, and the lift hill restarts, sending the train off the lift hill, and onto the circuit, where it inevitably meets and collides with the stranded ride train.

 

Why did the first train stop?

 

Let’s get one thing clear right away. Roller coaster trains simply cannot ‘break down’. They’re free rolling cars that roll strictly under the laws of gravity and physics.

 

It likely stopped due to combination of unexpected high winds, and the fact that the train was empty, meaning that it may not have had the momentum needed to clear the loop.

 

You can actually see when this nearly happened during testing with how slowly it crawls through the loop. Incidentally, the same loop the train in this accident failed to clear:

 

http://youtu.be/NLw1Mpx-KaE?t=1m53s

 

The trains were substantially modified after these initial stalls, and the problem never surfaced again until a couple of days ago when the accident happened.

 

How did the two trains crash? Aren’t there systems to stop this from happening?

 

Yes, there are. It’s what’s known as a ‘Blocking’ system. Basically, each ride circuit is made up of several ‘block’ sections. If a train occupies a certain block, then the ride will prevent any other train from entering that block until the first train has cleared the way. Even if a ride operator is hurriedly spamming a dispatch button, the ride simply will not allow the train to proceed if it doesn't think the way is clear.

 

The train that had been stopped at the top of the lift should have never left it. Right now, that’s what is being investigated: Why did the ride suddenly begin again when the block hadn’t been cleared? This is something we’ll have to await the results of the investigation for to know for sure.

 

Why did they release a train of passengers when the empty train hadn’t returned to the station?

 

The Smiler operates several trains. As many as 5 at its peak times. Its circuit is divided into two distinct halves (each one with its own lift hill). As one train begins its journey up the lift on the first half, the train ahead of it is beginning its ascent of the second lift. With the number of trains involved, it’s impossible to completely cycle the ride so that everything is on the final brakes or in the station. One HAS to be at the bottom of the second lift. If not, the train is in the maintenance shed.

 

Why did it take rescue services so long to rescue the passengers?

 

Emergency services were alerted virtually immediately, and were on scene very quickly. Alton Towers has been criticised for seemingly evacuating surrounding guests as their first priority, and then worrying about the passengers second. However, with the location where the trains had come to rest, access was very restricted, meaning the emergency services require all the room they need to work without members of the public hindering progress or putting themselves at risk. The section of the ride in question is built into a large pit, meaning the track is approximately 20 feet above the ground, and is of course permanently fenced off from the nearest side due to it being a ride area.

 

Emergency services were on the scene very quickly, but right away, it has to be assumed that everybody on that train may have sustained some sort of spinal injury, so extracting them from the ride immediately becomes a very delicate process. Not only is the train’s resting place awkward to access, but it’s also at a 45 degree banking angle. If anything, the emergency services got the passengers away remarkably quickly given the circumstances.

 

Where does the blame lie in this accident?

 

Again, this is going to be a case for the investigation to decide. It’s unlikely to be one individual party, but right now the ones with the most questions to answer is the company who designed and built the ride: Gerstlauer, as it was ultimately a crucial ride system that failed. As a precaution, Merlin (the group who owns the park) has also closed a sister ride at Thorpe Park called SAW, which operates using very similar hardware.

 

What’s The Smiler’s future? Will Alton Towers scrap the ride?

 

Certainly not. It's too popular a ride, and too big of an investment for them to simply remove after only 2 years of operation. There will certainly be modifications made to it however. Be it in terms of a major software overhaul, the installation of additional sensors on the track, or even re-profiling of the track for the section where the accident occurred.

 

It will remain closed for a long time for sure whilst changes are made, and we’re probably not going to see it active again for the rest of this year at least.

 

What does this incident mean for the park?

 

The park has been completely closed for two days, and is remaining closed tomorrow as well so that investigators can continue to try and find the cause. This without a doubt will cost the park many millions in lost revenues, but one thing to remember is that the park is owned by Merlin Entertainments: The second biggest attraction operator after Disney themselves.

 

One question on the investigators minds is if this is an isolated incident, or whether this same event could in theory happen to any other ride.

 

Regardless of if it is or not, ride policies and procedures are going to be tightened up a lot. Even more so than what they are now.

 

The outcome of this investigation may not only affect Alton Towers operating policies, but possibly the entire roller coaster industry as we know it should they find the same problem on other rides.

 

 

 

Finally…

 

Will this discourage me ever from riding a coaster again?

 

Check the avatar. Of course it won’t. The only result of this investigation and its inevitable changes to the ride will only make it safer, and without a doubt improve safety standards across an already very safe resort. At the time of this post, the statistics state that for every one and a half million rides, only 1.5 of them will report injury. This means that the odds of sustaining serious injury stand at one in 24 million. I'm sure as hell not going to be scared of odds like that, and I'll gladly ride The Smiler again once it eventually re-opens.

 

If it wasn't already made clear, this news has devastated guests, ride operators at Alton Towers, executives of the park and even the CEO of the Merlin Entertainments who flew in from across the country within hours of the accident taking place. Needless to say, the accident devastated me too. I love this ride, and the thought of people getting injured on it and this event happening at a place I hold so close to my heart hurt me a lot when I heard the news.

 

 

I need a drink.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Would have to find some actual data but intuition tells me that driving to the theme park is probably statistically more dangerous than riding this coaster. 

 

Really though, losing both your legs from a coaster.  Has me wondering about building crashworthiness into these cars as a "last resort" safety measure.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Heard the Smiler was one of three German made rollercoasters with one already having problems. After this crap has happened, shouldn't all three of them be decommissioned and the company sued? They're obviously not safe.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Heard the Smiler was one of three German made rollercoasters with one already having problems. After this crap has happened, shouldn't all three of them be decommissioned and the company sued? They're obviously not safe.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you wanted it on a very nitty-gritty level, SAW and The Smiler are different ride models, but do share a fair bit of technology between them. 

 

Saw's ride type is what's known as a 'Eurofighter', whilst The Smiler is a much newer 'Infinity Coaster'. The other two infinity coasters are being operated at differently run parks not under the ownership of Merlin, and I doubt that they will stop operation of their respective rides unless Gerstlauer steps in and explicitly tells them to. I would find it hard to believe that Gerst aren't partaking in this investigation too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To add on to your theory Jono, it might be possible that the test train had physical faults, such as issues with the wheels not being 'loose' enough. Under the weight of riders it wouldn't be a problem, but with the bare weight of the train itself I wouldn't find it too far fetched that stiff wheels and lack of riders prevented it from clearing the loop.

As for the mechanism which kept the loaded train at the top of the ride, maybe the lock holding it in place simply gave out or stopped responding to the software? The train was stuck there for a good 15 minutes, something must have happen in that time which caused the fault. Though I think that the mechanism outright breaking seems less likely, I'm willing to bet that a correlation between the hardware and software somehow failed which caused the loaded train to be released.

Overall, the issue was tragic and I hope that everyone else recovers. It's shocking that one of the victims list their legs though, I can't imagine how horrible that must be. As for who is at fault, I would say that Gerst might be the ones to look to. They designed the ride so any deep faults like this must be inherent design flaws.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The place in question where the second train waited for 15 minutes is pretty much right here:

 

http://www.towersstreet.com/gallery/theme_park/x_sector/the-smiler/atrsf13_111.jpg.html

 

The lift hill we're talking about is the one furthest from the camera (not the vertical one). Once the train goes over/beyond the crest, then its on its way, and cannot be stopped until it hits the next section of brakes on the track. To work with the block system in this case, the train stays on the lift incline, and isn't perched on the brink so to speak (would be incredibly dangerous if so).

 

Ultimately, this means that the only way the train could technically go in the event of a break down is back down the way it came (The Smiler uses a magnetic anti-rollback system which actually allows it to go back opposed to the more mechanical rack and pinion design a lot of traditional coasters use where going backwards on a lift is impossible).

 

It points to something in the ride software seemingly 'forgetting' that the way ahead wasn't clear, which is why the train proceeded when it shouldn't have.

 

 

In regards to the first train and why it stopped, I'd say a wheel failure on the trains themselves is extremely unlikely, as trains had passed their daily morning inspection, and been running through the ride absolutely fine in pre-opening tests right up until that point in the day. Because the wheels are completely free-spinning with no influence of brake pads, the wheels simply wouldn't tighten up as a result of running.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alton Towers Crash: Teenage Victim 'Critical'

http://news.sky.com/story/1497114/alton-towers-crash-teenage-victim-critical

 

Hope she will be ok :(

 

Hmmmmm

 

Paul Paxton, said she was in a "critical" condition

 

Then goes on to say...

 

"The family are distraught that a fun day out could turn into such a potentially life-changing disaster."

 

Wait... how is she in a critical condition then? 

 

Sky have been sexing up this story a lot, wouldn't be surprised if this is another exaggerated story.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Statement to Media:

 

 

 

FROM ALTON TOWERS SENT TO MEDIA (17.32)

Alton Towers Resort will re-open to the public on Monday 8th June at 10am.

Nick Varney, Chief Executive Merlin Entertainments said:

"The accident last Tuesday was a terrible event for everyone involved. We are very aware of the impact it will have on those involved and we are doing all we can to provide our support to those injured and their families.

We closed the Park immediately whilst preliminary investigations took place and to give our staff time to come to terms with the accident and its aftermath. In recent days our management team have been engaged in a thorough review of our operating and safety procedures before making this decision.

Alton Towers has a long record of safe operation and as we re-open, we are committed to ensuring that the public can again visit us with confidence."

X-Sector will remain closed until further notice.

Spinball will be closed until the enhanced safety protocols have been implemented which will take slightly longer than we had hoped due to the design of the ride.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The list of injuries comes out:

 

A 17-year-old girl injured in a rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers has had her leg amputated, it has emerged.

Leah Washington was on the front row of the Smiler ride, which crashed into an empty carriage in front of it.

Three others who were also in the front row sustained serious leg injuries, while a fifth person is being treated for internal injuries.

The theme park reopened earlier, six days after the crash, but the ride remains closed.

Ms Washington's father, David Washington, from Barnsley, said: "Leah has suffered a life-changing injury and now has many months of rehabilitation ahead of her.

"We have done this to put people's minds at rest and we would also ask everyone to respect Leah's privacy as she undergoes this rehabilitation."

Her leg was amputated above the left knee and she also suffered a fractured left hand.

Alton Towers said it was "deeply saddened" by the news, adding that it will "provide full support to all of those involved now, and throughout their recovery and rehabilitation".

Ms Washington's boyfriend, 18-year-old Joe Pugh from Barnsley, also remains at Royal Stoke Hospital where he is being treated for two broken knees and "extensive" hand injuries, a hospital spokesperson said.

Vicky Balch, from Leyland in Lancashire, who turned 20 while in Royal Stoke Hospital has undergone surgery and is in a "serious but stable" condition, according to her family.

Daniel Thorpe, 27, from Buxton, Derbyshire, was treated at University Hospital Coventry for a collapsed lung and a fractured leg. His condition is described as "serious but stable".

Chanda Singh, 49, from Wednesbury in the Black Country, who was sitting in the second row of the Smiler, was admitted to Walsall Manor Hospital with internal injuries.

She had surgery to her stomach, and has a damaged liver and blood clots, her daughter said.

Owners Merlin Entertainments said it had carried out "a thorough review" of safety procedures.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors have also been on site.

Source

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Smiler was actually testing earlier today with test dummies. Very surprising to see so soon after the incident, but I suspect it's all part of the HSE's investigation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think this would be the place to put something like this, so anyway.. Alton Towers has had a ride fail the other day, involving the park's Air Rollercoaster failing in the middle of a ride after two monorail trains broke down and causing 80 people to be stuck inside carriages for a hour and dozens of people being stuck face down on Air for about 20 minutes.

CI1P3hvWwAANLXw.jpg

 

 

No one was hurt, but considering that it was the hottest day of the year yesterday in the UK, I couldn't of imagined that most of those people came out of those rides in the best of moods, even though refreshments were given after they got off.

 

Edited accordingly. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

You must read and accept our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy to continue using this website. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.